Hogwash & Hiring Standards

October 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm 2 comments

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I feel compelled to write about something I recently read about Generation Y.  In the most recent issue of CE News Magazine there was an article written at the very end of the periodical titled “New Era of Opportunity.”  Initially the article discusses civil engineering and the turbulent economic crisis and how companies should handle the current economic climate.   The latter part of the article articulates that firms and agencies should be prepared to enter a “new era of employee relations as they begin to bring on members of the Y Generation.”  As a Gen X’r myself, not too far removed (in my own mind anyway) from Gen Y, I would have to agree with much of what the author suggested in regards to their character traits.   One item did strike a chord with me though:

They (Gen Y) live for the moment.  They expect to make many job changes is their careers.

And then, as a result,

They (Hiring Managers) will need to expect higher turnover rates and find ways of accommodating this change.

As I see it, the Hiring Managers should not tolerate high turnover rates and should not prepare to accept frequent job moves from Gen Y, but rather adapt the work place and company culture in other ways that would reduce, or at least maintain, current turnover rates.

Frequent job moves may be acceptable in the IT industry, but no matter how high-tech your civil engineering firm, and no matter how IT savvy it may be,  erratic job changes in this industry will always be frowned upon. The consulting civil engineering industry is about relationships and trust between client and consultant.  If Mr. Gen Y travels from firm to firm every few years, not only does he lose professional credibility and a diminishing level of trust for himself, but for the firm that he or she is working for at that time as well.  Certainly Generation Y is a very different generation from those of the past, and they do have a lot to offer.  Because of that, it is imperative that your firm constantly evaluate and evolve it’s philosophy, technology and work environment to meet the needs of the generational workforce.   One constant that should remain is your ability to hire the right people, and no matter what generation you may come from,  giving into the idea that you need to accept the fact that you will need to lower your standards to accommodate the new generation of engineers that will make frequent job changes is, in the words of a generation much earlier than mine, “hogwash.”

As side note, I JUST received this video via email and thought you might be interested.  ERE recently interviewed some folk on their thoughts of Gen Y, take a look:

And, Just Curious:


Entry filed under: Civil Engineering Issues, Employee Retention, Recruiting, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mark  |  November 14, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Turnover rates aren’t really open for debate. They are a symptom of corporate culture. I am Gen-X’r and I share the anticipation of many job changes in my career and in the careers of others. In fact, I was actually instructed by the dean of my engineering college to not only expect this reality but to embrace it….that I should plan on not staying in any position for more than 5 years.

    That fact is, the days of past generations where all one had to do to get ahead was simply to show up and work hard are long gone. Hard work and long hours don’t guarantee any benefit anymore.

    The younger generation entering the workforce aren’t moving around a lot because they’re lazy, or have short attention spans, or have an inflated sense of entitlement. They move because it’s in their best interest. They can easily see that by jumping to another employer they can get better benefits, better pay, a better schedule, better projects, or for any number of reasons why we all show up for work each morning.. Whatever it is, it will take just one day to get it from another employer or years to get it from their current employer. It’s an easy decision.

    It is a double standard for employers to expect a long term commitment from an employee when the same can’t be offered in return. All corporations say that they are committed to their employees….until times get tough. Then benefits get cut, salaries are frozen, and people get fired….anything so that the company will survive. As an “at will” employee it would be irresponsible to swear loyalty to corporation that can’t and won’t do the same. If it makes such good business sense for a company to ‘plan for change’ in their business model, why shouldn’t it be a good idea for individuals. It’s all business decisions, either way.

    Unless a company can offer their employees something something totally unique, that cannot be replaced by their competitors, then they should expect a high turnover.

    As for the relationships. You’re absolutely right. This industry is built on relationships. However, this isn’t a concern for individual because, when they leave, they take the relationships with them.

  • 2. Civil Site Design  |  October 31, 2008 at 12:42 am

    Here, here. I agree – building relationships is a very big part of being a successful engineer and one can’t with a short attention span!


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